The Kurds. Who and Where. One of the world’s largest ethnic groups without a state About 25-30 million people Live in an area that covers parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Map. Population Distribution. About 15% of the Middle East population Turkey: 15 million (25%)
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Who and Where • One of the world’s largest ethnic groups without a state • About 25-30 million people • Live in an area that covers parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria
Population Distribution • About 15% of the Middle East population • Turkey: 15 million (25%) • Iran: 6-7 million (9-10%) • Iraq: 3.5 million (14%) • Syria: 1 million (6%) • Former USSR: 500,000 • Rest of the World: 1.5 million
Brief History • Society that predated Ancient Greeks • Survived as a largely independent part of Islamic, Mongol, Tatar and Ottoman Empires • Attempted to break from Turkish control 1834 following the Russo-Turkish war and were forcefully subjugated • Attempts made to create a Kurdish principality under Turkey in 1881 • Kurds oppressed by Turkish during WW I • Soviet backed Kurdish republic lasts until WW II • Kurdish revolts in 1900’s suppressed in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq
Kurdish Language • Part of Iranian branch of Indo-European family tree • Three main dialect branches • Northern (Kurmanji and Badinani) • Central (Sorani) • Southern (Pehlewani) • Kurds classify different dialects based on how they perceive them to sound • No standard nomenclature for different dialects
Basis of marginalization • Kurdish recognition of their distinct identity • States with significant Kurdish minorities concerned about independence movements • State suppression of or refusal to accept Kurdish identity • Of course, linguistic oppression often plays a part in these efforts
Language Oppression - Turkey • In 1924 all Kurdish institutions banned, Kurdish revolts suppressed • “I believe that the Turk must be the only lord, the only master of this country. Those who are not of pure Turkish stock can have only one right in this country, the right to be servants and slaves” –Turkish cabinet member in 1930 • In 1932, forced resettlement of Kurds • Following a 1938 revolt, the use of Kurdish was banned and the Kurds became officially known as “Mountain Turks” • Speakers fined per word for use of Kurdish in the marketplace
Language Oppression - Turkey • Though Kurdish continued to be used as a home language, its repression has adversely affected the language • Many educated Kurds have a hard time expressing abstract ideas in Kurdish • Kurdish literacy dropped to the point that many Kurdish publications became bilingual • Most Kurdish intellectual activity moved to Syria and later to Europe
Language Oppression - Iraq • Kurds received protection and education in Kurdish under British control • Spoken Kurdish never officially banned, a written standard for some local dialects did emerge • Some officially apathy or hostility towards Kurdish • At times authorities had been forced to publicly reaffirm that Kurds have rights • Kurdish received acceptance and some support from Iraqi government prior to 1970 • Beginning in 1970, the Kurdish population lost most rights and faced numerous attacks and oppression attempts
Language Oppression - Iran • Policies seek to keep Kurds content and limit any attempts at independence • Publications were rarely allowed • Kurdish often considered just a dialect of Persian by Farsi speakers • Kurdish university declared illegal • In education, Kurdish only allowed alongside Farsi
The Future? • Turkey appears to be less restrictive towards Kurds under the scrutiny of the European Union • Kurdish publications legalized in Iran in 1984, Kurdish education is now permitted • The future of Kurds in Iraq remains to be seen following the end of the Saddam Hussein’s regime.
References • Keryenbroek, Philip, and Sperl, Stefan. The Kurds, A Contemporary Overview. New York: Routledge: 1992 • Bodnarchuk, Kari J. Kurdistan, Region Under Siege. Minneapolis, MN: Learner Publications Company: 2000 • Izady, Mehrdad. The Kurds: A Concise Handbook. Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis: 1992 • Wilipedia.org • http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurds • http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdish_language • http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Kurds • http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Kurds • CIA World Fact Book • http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/sy.html • http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/iz.html • http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ir.html • http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/tu.html